Ancestry UK

Inishowen, Co. Donegal

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Inishowen Poor Law Union was formed on the 18th September 1840 and covered an area of 248 square miles. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 23 in number, representing its 21 electoral divisions as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Co. Donegal: Ardmalin, Ballyliffin, Buncrana (2), Carndonagh (2), Carthage, Castle Cary, Culdaff, Desertegny, Dunaff, Gleneely, Gleneganon, Glentogher, Green Castle, Illies, Inishowen (2), Malin, Mintiaghs, Moville, Redcastle, Straid, Tirmone, Whitecastle.

The Board also included 6 ex officio Guardians, making a total of 29.

The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 43,238 with divisions ranging in size from Glentogher (population 1,123) to Buncrana (3,486).

The new workhouse, built in 1844-5, was designed by George Wilkinson. It occupied a six-acre site half a mile to the south of Carndonagh and could accommodate 600 inmates. The cost of the building was £6,350 plus £1,010 for fixtures and fittings etc. It was declared fit for the admission of paupers on 18th September 1843, and admitted its first inmates two weeks later on 2nd October. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1903 map below.

Inishowen workhouse site, 1903.

The workhouse followed one of Wilkinson's standard designs, with a front block housing receiving rooms on the ground floor and a board-room on the first floor. A central block housed dormitories, school rooms, day rooms, kitchen and food serving rooms. The rearmost block, connected via the chapel, housed the workhouse infirmary. A small fever hospital was subsequently erected at the north of the workhouse. A burial ground lay at the north-east of the site.

The workhouse later became Carndonagh District Hospital. The buildings were demolished in 1958 and new ones opened.


Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Donegal County Record Office, Three Rivers Centre, Lifford, County Donegal. Holdings include: Guardians' Minutes (1844-1922); Rough Minutes (1850); Admissions and discharges (1849-1858, 1908-1911); Indoor Relief Register (1844-1849, 1899-1918); Accounts (1892-1900); Day Book (1907-1909); etc.


  • The Workhouses of Ulster by Michael H Gould, 1983.
  • The Workhouses of Ireland by John O'Connor (Anvil Books, 1995)


  • None.

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